WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, released the following statement today in reaction to the close of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) auction of the 700 MHz radio spectrum. The spectrum auction is part of the transition to Digital Television that will culminate in all television signals switching from analog to digital on February 17, 2009.

"The wireless auction just completed has successfully begun the process of opening up the U.S. marketplace for wireless devices and applications.  I chaired several hearings last year promoting this idea and FCC Chairman Martin deserves credit for insisting that at least one of the major licenses contains this new openness as a condition of providing service. I look forward to monitoring implementation of this provision, which holds much promise for fostering innovation and consumer choice.

"I also am eager to ascertain the extent to which new entrants have succeeded in obtaining licenses through this auction. Providing new opportunities for competitive entry into the wireless marketplace and offering consumers greater choice is a key objective of wireless policy and for this auction in particular.  The upcoming hearing I plan to hold will give members a chance to review these auction results.

"In addition, with respect to the so-called ‘D-block' license, which embodied a public safety mission and which has failed to meet the reserve price for this auction, the upcoming hearing will allow the subcommittee to fully review several issues. I believe that any new auction for the ‘D-block' should be consistent with an overarching policy goal of advancing public safety objectives and ultimately achieving a state-of-the-art, broadband infrastructure for first responders. In developing a plan for a re-auction of the ‘D-block,' the FCC should also take into account the auction results to gauge the level of new competition achieved. Policymakers should also analyze whether a need for a high reserve price continues to exist.  Moreover, I believe we must fully review the nature and authority of the public safety spectrum trust and whether this model should be retained or modified, the length of the license term, the build-out requirements and schedule of benchmarks for such build-out, the opportunities for ensuring further openness in wireless markets, the penalties associated with failure to fulfill license conditions, and other issues.

"The subcommittee's inquiry will be done with an eye toward ensuring that in any overarching plan to fulfill public safety objectives, the private sector can operate wireless networks commercially while simultaneously fulfilling an important role for first responders.  I look forward to working with Chairman John Dingell, Ranking Member Joe Barton, Subcommittee Ranking Member Cliff Stearns, our other subcommittee colleagues, as we discuss how to best to proceed with FCC Chairman Martin and his fellow commissioners."

March 18, 2008

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, 202.225.2836